OUR VIEW: We’re losing too many young people in LaGrange over gun violence. How do we reverse this trend?

Published 9:14 am Tuesday, March 7, 2023

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If you’re like us, your first reaction to Saturday night’s shooting at Southbend Park was to think of your own children.

Maybe hug them tighter. Think about what could’ve happened, had they been there.

Another family wasn’t so lucky. A 16-year-old, Nazir Truett, was killed. 

A 15-year-old, Brandon Harrison, Jr, has been charged with murder. 

Fifteen. Sixteen.Those are supposed to be some of the best days of our lives.

Instead, this community is grieving the loss of a young life at the hands of another very young person. 

Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone involved in this terrible incident.

And we’re also thankful it wasn’t much worse, as Southbend Park can be a very popular place on a Saturday evening. 

This whole thing started over an argument. We’re not sure what the argument was about, but what could a 15-and 16-year old-really be arguing over? 

And why is that answer ever anything more serious than something school-related, sports or a girlfriend or boyfriend?

There are understandably a lot of people who want something to change as a result of this shooting and other recent ones. A 15-year-old was shot and killed on Handley Street in February.

A press conference was held Sunday evening at Southbend park, and a vigil was held on Monday. Those are good starts, but where do we go from here?

When you talk about the reasons why something like this happens, some say we need our kids in church. Others point to parenting or social media. 

Many ask aloud how are our young people even getting these firearms, and why they believe violence is the answer.

There are some that believe this is a policing issue, but the LaGrange Police Department, Troup County Sheriff’s Office and our other law enforcement agencies can only respond to information they have at their disposal. 

There are numerous events throughout the year where law enforcement interacts with children. The sheriff’s office and LPD have a fairly significant presence in schools, whether it’s through programs or just by having a school resource officer on the grounds. National Night Out gives the community a chance to get to know officers. The opportunities are there, but we’re obviously missing some of our young people, who aren’t calling the police when they find themselves in a place they shouldn’t be. How do we close that divide?

Some have called for a curfew, but is that really going to stop anyone with a gun and bad intentions? On the flip side, can it really hurt anything?

We know there are plenty of music stars, actors, “role models” who flash guns on their social media feeds and perpetuate a stereotype that our young people try to emulate. How do we point them toward true leaders, people who show up to work every day, have a good paying job, love and support their families and are a productive member of society? 

Not everyone worth looking up to is on a phone screen or a television. 

We don’t know the answers to those questions, but we think the solution is somewhere in there.  

What we do know is that we need more adult leaders to step forward. And with no offense meant, we don’t mean politicians. We also don’t necessarily mean pastors. 

All of the men out there, regardless of age, knows no one can ever replace our mom. No one loves us like mom. But we need more men to step up and lead, not only their own kids but other kids. It takes a village to raise a child. That includes uncles, cousins and big brothers too.

We also need more youth playing sports or participating in some kind of extracurricular activity. Give them a reason to want to get out of bed in the morning. Give them a reason to spend an hour or two off their phones.

We also need very involved parents, who talk to their children about their day, about school and about their interests. 

As this community grieves the loss of another young person, we believe everyone feels that enough is enough. This can’t keep happening. But where do we go from here? What are the solutions?